When the dust had finally settled on this 48-game sprint of an NHL regular season, can anyone really say they are surprised that the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers will be meeting in the playoffs—again?
For the fourth time in the past six years, the Caps and Rangers will square off in the playoffs. If history has taught us anything the past few years, it is to expect the unexpected when these two teams meet. Seedings mean nothing. Predictability? Forget about it.
Two of the previous three series have gone the full seven games. In 2009, the Caps came in as the No. 2 seed, but fell behind the No. 7-seeded Rangers, 3-1. Two dominating performances by the Caps later and the two teams met in a tight and tense Game 7. The Caps would win that game, 2-1, on a late goal by Sergei Fedorov.
In 2011, one year after the Caps' shocking loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the teams would meet in the playoffs once again. This time out, the Caps would prevail in five games, although the series could have just as easily gone the other way had the Rangers caught a few more breaks.
In 2012, the teams would meet again, but this time, a berth to the Eastern Conference Finals was on the line. For the first time, the Rangers had home-ice advantage, and, in the end, the Rangers won Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, 2-1, to eliminate the Caps.
So, for the third year in a row, here we go again. The higher-seeded team has won the past two series so that bodes well for the Caps' chances. Nevertheless, when these two teams meet in the playoffs, having any sort of expectations can be a real waste of time, investment and effort.
Both teams are quite different from a year ago, and yet, they are very much the same. Both teams ended the season peaking at the right time. The Caps went 15-2-2 in their final 19 games; the Rangers went 10-3-1 in April to capture the No. 6 seed.
Both teams obviously know each other very well, and it will be very difficult for one team to truly surprise the other.
So how do I see this playing out? I think we are in store for an unreal battle between two teams that know exactly how to attack the other's weaknesses. I have a feeling this one is going to go to a Game 7 as well, and I anticipate a tough, mostly defensive series where the slightest mistakes are magnified considerably.
Who will win? How will each game go down? How close will my predictions be to reality? Am I completely crazy?
For that, you will have to read on.